LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers said it plainly enough for all who would listen. Game 1 of the NBA Finals was won by the team that was more aggressive, which led to the Lakers getting the calls they wanted and setting the pace for the game.
Here's what he said yesterday at his postgame press conference, which I posted last night here:
"I thought the fouls were called because they were more physical. I thought the Lakers were clearly the more physical team today. I thought they were more aggressive. I thought they attacked us the entire night, and you know, I've always thought the team that is the most aggressive gets better calls. That's just human nature."
What we didn't see in Game 1 of the NBA Finals was Kevin Garnett bullying Pau Gasol around, or Kobe Bryant getting frustrated with double teams. In fact, the defensive menace of the Celtics was really lacking. Paul Pierce said they lost in part because the Celtics were getting beat on the "hustle plays." Rajon Rondo attributed it to the Lakers' length. Kendrick Perkins said it was their lack of intensity. Glenn Davis was miffed about the team's rebounding. And Ray Allen essentially said there was a lack of rhythm.
How the Celtics remedy all of these things at once is anybody's guess. But we saw in the Cleveland series, with another team boasting the best player in the NBA, how quickly the team bounced back from a similar 20-point defeat. In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Rondo went on a tear (29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists) to lift the Celtics to a 97-87 victory. And as many pundits have put it, as Rondo goes, so do the Celtics. His three points in the second half last night suggested he was not aggressive enough. And as we've come to know, every time he's been needed to bounce back huge, he has.